Ordre de Malte France aid for new poor created by Covid-19
To alleviate the sharp increase in poverty caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, Ordre de Malte France has launched a new project, “Soli’Malte”, an emergency street service to help the more vulnerable sections of the community. “The great novelty of this project,” says Jean Baptiste Favatier, president of Ordre de Malte France, “is that it provides health, food, hygiene and social support services in one single package”.
This service will shortly be offered in 14 large towns throughout France, “because today it’s in the metropolises where zones of extreme poverty are being created”, explains Favatier. There will be both fixed posts, near the places where the homeless habitually gather, and mobile posts that will seek out isolated persons, in particular the so-called ‘new poor’. These are the men and women who have had never used aid in the past and who are “often indicated by neighbours or parishes.”
The Ordre de Malte France vehicles carry a doctor and a nurse who check temperatures and blood oxygen levels as well as for any weakness or wounds. The volunteers also distribute meals and basic hygiene kits with toothbrushes, toothpaste and underwear, as well as providing social accompaniment, talking to people about their physical needs or psycho-social problems. Those assisted are then redirected to the appropriate facilities.
“We have a combination of two problems, both linked to the repercussions of Covid-19 on the more vulnerable. We have the usual rough sleepers, around 300 thousand in France, who are already suffering the consequences of restriction measures hindering the volunteers’ action. Furthermore, the economic impact of the epidemic over the last two weeks has created the ‘new poor’, those already possessing very low incomes and who now can only just manage to pay the rent. Today we see many more people sifting through the rubbish to find something to eat”.
There are over 70 Order of Malta delegations active in France, with 2000 volunteers on the ground, mostly engaged in services linked to the epidemic: “There has been an extraordinary burst of generosity,” states president Favatier, “both with active participation and with donations that enable us to buy food, thermometers and hygiene kits.” This new “Soli’Malte” service, Favatier concludes, “is also creating waves in the French media, allowing Ordre de Malte France to ramp up this project and to work alongside other associations with which we are in close cooperation”.
Ordre de Malte France is also present in 27 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Far East. In Africa “we have first of all taken every possible measure to protect our health personnel and patients in our ten hospitals, none of which is set up to accept Covid-19 cases,” explains Favatier, specifying that there are problems in supplying masks, especially in Burkina Faso and Senegal”. For this reason, “it was important to mobilize the Sovereign Order of Malta’s diplomatic network to obtain guarantees from governments and thus prevent the medical equipment being requisitioned”.